Local author’s thriller examines not-so-distant technological threat
Technology is everywhere, and it can provide seemingly infinite data. But what happens when it collects too much information on the people it is supposed to help?
Delaware native Glen Goleburn’s new novel, “Do I Recognize You?” considers what could happen if a greedy corporation used facial recognition technology to track retail shoppers.
In the story, the tracking system misidentifies an innocent man as someone wanted by a dangerous drug cartel. He goes on the run, attempting to outsmart the system and prove his innocence.
Goleburn said he first read about facial recognition technology two years ago. After more than 20 years as a dentist, he already had basic understanding of facial anatomy and was fascinated by biometrics. Soon thereafter, he noticed several surveillance cameras and thought, “What if that store camera could use that data to recognize me and match data to my profile?”
He set the story in 2013, as a realistic time for the technology to become widespread. He says biometrics became especially relevant recently, when facial recognition technology was used to positively identify Osama bin Laden.
“As the technology develops, we’ll see more and more of it,” Goleburn said.
Goleburn has much experience with research papers, but the novel marks his first venture into fiction. After researching biometrics, computer technology and drug cartels, Goleburn said writing “Do I Recognize You?” was like composing a research paper with a made-up story and characters.
“I think it’s important for people to realize that the law is really behind the times in regulating data gathering,” he said.
Retail stores already have video surveillance, and they collect information, through ZIP codes, email addresses, discount cards and more. Plus, cellular phones and handheld devices can track locations. Goleburn simply elevated these technologies to create a more direct and sinister product.
“This is apparently the first thriller novel that takes that subject and, using everyday people, shows what the future is really going to bring,” the author said.
The thriller plays into people’s fears about social media and information collecting. Goleburn explained the relevance of these themes.
“The interesting part is that it applies to every one of us,” said Goleburn. “It isn’t just limited to people who engage in one activity, but if you are a retail shopper – that’s pretty much the entire population.”
A fulltime dentist who practices in Newark and Millsboro, Goleburn hails from Wilmington and vacations in Rehoboth Beach. It only makes sense, then, that much of “Do I Recognize You?” takes place in Delaware.
The novel is self-published, which Goleburn said is becoming a major movement in the publishing and music industries.
“Artists have said, ‘We’re tired of being pushed around by music industry. We can do this on our own.’ And that’s what’s happening in the book industry, it seems,” Goleburn explained, noting that Amazon.com now sells more Kindle books than print books.